Retro Review: The Plaza Theatre Celebrates 50 Years of The Beatles’ A HARD DAY’S NIGHT With a Gorgeous New Restoration!

Posted on: Jul 2nd, 2014 By:

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964); Dir. Richard Lester; Starring The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr); Runs Friday, July 4 – Thursday, July 10 (see Plaza Theatre website for times and ticket prices); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Has it been 50 years already? Hard to tell when it comes to something timeless, and there are few films as timeless as The Beatles’ motion picture debut, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. Chock full of great music, wild comedy, groundbreaking direction and a witty, snappy script, it’s enjoyable enough on any occasion. But with a beautiful, newly-minted restoration, there’s no better way to commemorate the movie’s half-centenary than spending an evening at the Plaza Theatre with the “Fab Four”.

When it comes to rock & roll movies, there are generally three camps. There are straight-up documentaries and concert films, like The Band’s THE LAST WALTZ, ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS, WOODSTOCK or Dylan’s DON’T LOOK BACK. Then there are the films where a rock star gets shunted into some generally cockamamie scenario which has musical performances conveniently hanging off of it, such as most Elvis movies or Herman’s HermitsMRS. BROWN YOU’VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER. Then there are those films where you’ve got a plot and actors that serve chiefly to prop up a handful of showcase musical numbers, featuring musicians that you don’t really see outside of those isolated performances, aside from maybe five minutes of acting to establish their presence in the film. This is typical of most 1950s rock & roll movies (Elvis vehicles excluded) like THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK and—in later years—the Ramones’ tribute to these flicks, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

Then, there are the exceptions, and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is one of the most striking. It’s not a documentary, though it probably gets closer to the true spirit of The Beatles and Beatlemania than any documentary could. It’s not tied up in some convoluted plot that exists to just fill time between songs (that would be their follow-up movie, the winkingly self-conscious HELP!). And with The Beatles starring as themselves, it breaks away from the ‘50s template. At the time, it was truly revolutionary. There really wasn’t much else like it.

And it remains the single greatest rock and roll movie ever made.

Like Joe Bob Briggs used to say, it doesn’t have any plot to get in the way of the story. The Beatles have to make it to a TV studio for a live broadcast, putting up with Paul’s troublemaking grandfather (“He’s very clean.”) and the trappings of superstardom along the way. That’s it. But that threadbare plot allows plenty of time for the lads’ personalities to shine through and firmly establish each of them as distinct characters. It also allows ample opportunity to present The Beatles’ music organically: not only as score, but as source—in staged rehearsals and run-throughs leading up to their on-air performance.

The script is incredibly clever, providing constant tangential episodes within the film that deliver small moments of energy, so we never hit a dead spell in the journey. As a result, it plays as something of a sketch film, with the consistent forward dynamic of the band’s race to the TV studio maintaining an overarching momentum. In addition, screenwriter Alun Owen spent several days with the foursome and drew dialogue from interviews with the band to deliver Beatles “characters” that were true to each individual member of the group.

Director Richard Lester was a left-field candidate for helming the film, personally chosen by The Beatles on the basis of his work with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on TV and in the 1960 theatrical short THE RUNNING JUMPING & STANDING STILL FILM. Visually inventive and wildly imaginative, he not only innovatively captured live music performances, but also delivered crazed comic sequences (such as the opening chase scene, a rapid-fire interview segment and the wild “We’re out!”/”Can’t Buy Me Love” romp). It all comes across as pure giddy exuberance in cinematic form. And even though it depicts The Beatles as prisoners of their own fame, it’s also early enough that we’re still seeing them enjoying the view from between the bars. (As Orson Welles said, “if you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”)

Acting-wise, The Beatles are surprisingly confident on-screen. Paul comes across as level-headed and charming, George as dryly droll, John as sardonic and anarchic and Ringo as sensitive and compassionate. It’s Ringo in particular that shines during a sequence in which he escapes from the TV studio to anonymously wander about town and winds up palling around with a young kid. The keen script, Lester’s deft direction and Ringo’s performance join forces to create one of the film’s most memorable chapters.

And then there’s the music. Rather than use the film to push already-existing product, aside from the previously-released “Can’t Buy Me Love” and a quick medley of hits as the basis for their TV performance, the film uses newly-composed, original material by the band. And the resulting LP, their first to not feature any cover songs, is perhaps The Beatles’ first great album. With all songs written by Lennon and McCartney, it firmly established The Beatles as a truly self-contained unit—and one that sounded uniquely like themselves, rather than a large derivative of artists that came before.

I could write for forever and never be able to capture what strange magic this film conjures. It’s pure electricity on film. It’s full of the joy of life and the living of it. Like I said before, it’s the greatest rock & roll film ever made. And what the hell, one of the greatest films, full stop. And hey! If you need more convincing to see this after all of the superlatives I’ve been piling on, it has been newly digitally restored for the film’s 50th anniversary, with a new 5.1 sound mix created at Apple Studios, and word on the street is that the end result is a marvel.

So drop what you’re doing and see this at your earliest convenience. Even if you don’t know it, you need a reminder of why The Beatles were one of the biggest phenomena of the 20th century, and there’s no more entertaining way to get that reminder than with this film.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Mad, Mad Music Radio: Col. Bruce Hampton Takes His Eclectic Talents to the Airwaves with Radio Free Radio on AM 1690

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 By:

Radio Free Radio; Hosted by Col. Bruce Hampton and Michael Holbrook; 7 p.m.;  first and third Thursdays of each month

By William Ashton
Contributing Writer

For a self-proclaimed “shy accountant,” Col. Bruce Hampton has made a spectacle of himself for more than four decades. He’s acted in an Oscar-winning movie (SLING BLADE [1996]), made 15 records (or so) and helped organize the H.O.R.D.E. concert tours of the ‘90s, but he’s mostly known as a performing musician, playing thousands of shows since the late 1960s.

A big, genial man, Hampton had a heart attack a few years ago, but he still plays 150 shows a year. He says that, at age “66 and above ground,” that’s plenty. “If I could go on at 8 p.m., I’d do more, but a lot of southern clubs start at 11,” he says. “It’s a young man’s game.”

Col. Bruce Hampton’s music is an unpredictable blend of blues, jazz and psychedelic rock, with a dash of funk and what not. Before the term “jam band” was coined, Hampton was jamming; he’s played  guitar and sang with The Hampton Grease Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit and Fiji Mariners (among others). A touchstone for many musicians in the jam-band circuit, Hampton was there for all but one H.O.R.D.E. tour in the ‘90s, he recalls.

“The only time I missed [H.O.R.D.E.] was when I went out with [the late blues musician] Hubert Sumlin one year, which was fine. We were in Louisiana one night when Sumlin offered to take us to the Crossroads [the intersection along Mississippi’s Highway 61 where blues legend Robert Johnson was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil]. We declined very quickly,” Hampton says. “It was a long way away.”

Col. Bruce Hampton (his legal name, he says) has recently taken his talents to the airwaves, playing music and sharing stories on AM 1690’s “Radio Free Radio” with former Hampton Grease Band member Michael Holbrook.  The show airs at 7 pm on the first and third Thursdays of each month.

“I’ve done occasional programs on AM 1690. Jon Waterhouse (from the radio station) asked us to do it every other week,” he said. “I do whatever Jon tells me.”

Hampton and Holbrook seem to have thousands of stories about life on the road, touching on encounters with everyone from Frank Zappa and John Lennon to Muddy Waters and Chet Atkins.

Playing with G.E. Smith led to Hampton’s sitting in on-air with the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE band one night a couple of decades ago, when Smith was “SNL’s” musical director. Longtime friend Billy Bob Thornton cast Hampton in SLING BLADE – and Hampton’s band performs in Thornton’s forthcoming movie JAYNE MANSFIELD’S CAR.

Sometime this year, Atlanta fans may see Col. Bruce playing regularly at the long-shuttered Avondale Towne Cinema. Hampton is among those meeting with Avondale city officials, with a goal of reopening the venue under new management, he says.

“A couple of lawyers from Alabama are planning to reopen the venue, and music will certainly be a part of it,” said Hampton, who saw wrestling matches at the Avondale landmark when he was growing up in the Decatur area. “I’ll try to play there twice a month and have guest artists. We had a similar (residency) at Brandywine in the ‘90s and it was a huge success.”

Another successful outlet for Hampton’s talents are the summertime Jam Cruises, which gather assorted musicians – many from New Orleans – for musical voyages through the Caribbean.

Hampton seems surprised that he likes the cruises. “I dislike Disney World. I hate just about everything with a lot of people involved, but this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “There’s food 24 hours a day, music 20 hours a day. The musicians are the cream of the crop. It’s fascinating and great.”

Hampton’s own fascinating story is the subject of a 2012 documentary, BASICALLY FRIGHTENED: THE MUSICAL MADNESS OF COLONEL BRUCE HAMPTON; the DVD (with new bonus live footage) has recently gained distribution through Amazon.com after a couple of years of limited availability.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Scott Glazer Takes Listeners Backstage with Rock, R&B and Country Greats on AM 1690

Posted on: Aug 18th, 2011 By:

Scott Glazer performing with Mojo Dojo at Northside Tavern. Photo courtesy by Scott Glazer.

Take a visit to the audio green room that is BACKSTAGE ATLANTA (Tues. at 12:30 p.m.; encore Sun. 11:30 a.m.) , and you might find bassist Joe B. Maudlin of Buddy Holly & The Crickets sharing a firsthand account of the heyday of early rock ‘n’ roll. Or ‘80s synth-pop maestro Jan Hammer revealing the story behind how he came to compose the soundtrack to MIAMI VICE. R&B legend Peabo Bryson has stopped by, The Beach BoysBrian Wilson was a recent guest, and country star Emmylou Harris came to sit a spell, as well as pianist Kenny Ascher, who’s collaborated with John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams.

Those Retro music greats, however, never would have found it onto Atlanta’s airwaves if it wasn’t for the existence of an eclectic little radio station called AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts and a visionary local musician named Scott Glazer known for jumping music genres and fascinated with what goes on behind the curtains.  ATLRetro recently caught up with Scott, who also deejays The Midday Mix (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) on AM 1690, to find out more about the independent radio station and Scott’s passion for preserving music history on the air.

How did you become involved with AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts?

I am a musician. In the fall of ’03, I was playing the annual run of  THE 1940s RADIO HOUR at Theatre in the Square in Marietta. One evening after the show I went to a jam session at Darwin’s, a blues joint. There I sang and played with a piano player and spoke and exchanged phone numbers with him. Turns out that he was/is station owner Joe Weber. We touched base a couple of times during the year, and [in] fall of ’04, he called me and asked me to come in to speak with him and [General Manager] Jeff Davis. I was astounded and excited!

When people hear “The Voice of the Arts,” they might think you’re another public radio station playing classical and experimental jazz. They’d be wrong, right?

First off, they’d be wrong in thinking that we are “public radio.” No National Endowment for the Arts funds come our way. Led by noted industry veteran and my personal hero Jeff Davis, our advertising sales staff is #1 and hustles like hell! As far as classical and experimental music, well, you’ll get some of everything on AM1690. We play music that we are passionate about. Most of it is music that you won’t hear on the big megabucks media conglomerates. How can there not be George Jones, Emmylou or Loretta on country radio?  Or Chuck Berry, The Olympics, Percy Mayfield, Ruth Brown, Patsy Cline or a litany of other American greats on the air?

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Weekend Update, April 8-10, 2011

Posted on: Apr 8th, 2011 By:

Friday, April 8

Mike Geier and one of the lovely Dames Aflame.

Kingsized swings, lounges and rock and rolls the Star Bar in that wondrous way that only “Big Mike” Geier can.  Master mandolin player and one of the fathers of bluegrass music, Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder play Variety PlayhouseAlex Lattimore brings jazz, R&B and a light touch of blues to Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.  Joe Gransden and Kenny Banks jazz up Twelve at Atlantic Station.

Film Love‘s Yoko Ono: Reality Dreams short film series concludes with a free screening of Bottoms at 8 PM at Emory University‘s White Hall Room 206.  Ono’s most notorious film literally reveals the backsides of several hundred “saints of our time. All Film Love events are curated by recent Kool Kat Andy Ditzler.

Saturday April 9

Celebrate the 19th birthday of The Highlander with a free concert by musical masters of the circus freak show, Greasepaint, featuring Atlanta’s own insane clown posse of Puddles, aka Big Mike Geier (Kingsized), and the Reverend Uncle Laffo, aka Jim Stacy (Grand Moff Tarkin). Also on the bill is Super X-13, featuring Shane Morton (Gargantua, Silver Scream Spook Show) on bass in a big hair wig and crazy Ultraman-inspired jumpsuit (well that’s the whole band actually)!

 

Cuba’s greatest rumba ensemble for more than 50 years, Los Munequitos de Matanzas proves “without rumba, there is no Cuba, and without Cuba, there is no rumba” at GSU’s Rialto Center for the Arts. Legendary ’80s industrial/ experimental rock band Savage Republic revs up The EarlBetter Than The Beatles pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday April 10

Tinkerbell (Yetter) flies with Peter Pan (Ciaran Joyce). Photo credit: Ed Krieger.

Tom Gentry & Co. serve up the blues at “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl. And today is the last day to catch KOOL KAT Emily Yetter starring as a precocious, politically incorrect Tinkerbell in J.M. BARRIE’S PETER PAN under the big tent at Pemberton Place, next to the World of Coca-Cola.

 

Ongoing

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, but it’s not a stretch to say that his vibrant posters and prints of showgirls, nightclub stars and the café culture influenced the 20th century romantic view of Paris and still inspire today’s burlesque performers. The High Museum of Art’s dynamic new special exhibition, TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AND FRIENDS: THE IRENE AND HOWARD STEIN COLLECTION, runs through May 1. Also at the High through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, another blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool happening we’ve missed, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


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This Week in Retro Atlanta, April 4-10

Posted on: Apr 6th, 2011 By:

Here’s your weekly guide to where and why to get out…

Monday April 4

It’s somehow comforting to see The Residents still together making not-for-everyone but truly alternative music at Variety Playhouse. Whether it’s a “New Moon on Monday,” or not, ’80s synth pop idols Duran Duran play to a sell-out crowd at Center Stage. Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday April 5

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. J.T. Speed plays Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday April 6

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Deacon Brandon Reeves and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

Thursday April 7

Sub Pop legend and former Dinosaur Jr. frontman, J Mascis, rocks The Earl. Drink some wine, dance, see live performances  and check out PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE during MODA‘s second Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. What the…? is what we’re asking as to who’s playing under the disco ball at Atlanta’s funnest new concert venue, Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc, in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’sJoe Gransden jazzes up Tantra now on Thursdays. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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Weekend Update, April 1-3, 2013

Posted on: Apr 2nd, 2011 By:
Sorry not to get this post until Saturday this week. Away this weekend and was more challenged than expected finding wifi yesterday–maybe that was the April Fool’s joke on me! Hopefully you got a chance to read This Week in Retro Atlanta, and didn’t miss any of the cool events Friday night. If you didn’t get to Chris Hamer’s BIG IN JAPAN opening party, you should still hit Octane to see the exhibit which runs through April 30. Also, new in the update: another rare chance to see DEATH RACE 2000 on the big screen at the Plaza Theatre, if you missed last week’s Splatterday Night Live.

Friday, April 1

Terribly talented artist Chris Hamer recycles Tom Waits with the solo art show, BIG IN JAPAN, at Octane Coffee Bar & Lounge, opening night party from 7 to 11 PM. Works inspired by Waits songs will be on display until April 30, but isn’t it more fun to see them with Blast-Off Burlesque and other surprises. Read more about Chris and how Waits helped conjure some personal monsters in this week’s Kool Kat. Celebrate the 10th anniversary of THE LAST ROCK ‘N ROLL DOCUMENTARY and support an Atlanta retro treasure at tonight’s Plaza Theatre Foundation fundraiser with tickets just a bargain one buck. Film Love‘s Yoko Ono: Reality Dreams short film series part 4 is Flux Fly Body Music at Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center. A highlight is the enigmatic FLY, “a collaboration with John Lennon, which features the human body as landscape, with an improvised vocal soundtrack – one of Ono’s most engaging musical works.” Curated by last week’s Kool Kat Andy Ditzler.

Swing dance to Joe Gransden‘s big band at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX. New band Please Pleaserock Me teaches Beatle-ologoy at Eddie’s Attic.

Saturday March 12

Classic train fans and their kids will dig Caboose Days this weekend from 10 AM to 5 PM at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth featuring train rides in restored cabooses, oodles of kids’ activities and a chance to tour and see 90 pieces of retired railway equipment, including vintage steam engines, a private car once used by President Warren G. Harding and much more.

Get down to a Spring Soul Party with The Soulphonics & Ruby Velle at Star Bar. The fabulous Talloolah Love presents her Thank You/Vegas or Bust Party starting at 10 PM at Bart Webb Studios in Avondale. Drink Love Shots, dance to DJ Doctor Q‘s fine tunes and enjoy live performances, all to thank everyone who voted for her to nab a prestigious performance spot at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend next month. Watch for an exclusive report by Love on the Southern Fried Burlesque Fest soo.

Don’t miss another rare chance to see one of the craziest, best black comedy cult movies of all time DEATH RACE 2000 at the Plaza Theatre at 9:30 p.m. Come on! David Carradine as a race car driver called Frankenstein! ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL’s Mary WoronovSly Stallone! And everyone in America is road kill. Read why Mark Arson thinks it’s a better ’70s SF/action flick than STAR WARS here.

Better Than The Beatles pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday March 27

Caboose Days continue at Southeastern Railway MuseumChickens and Pigs serves up blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, March 28-April 3, 2011

Posted on: Mar 29th, 2011 By:

Here’s your weekly guide to where and why to get out…

Monday March 28

Francine Reed belts out some beautiful blues every other Monday at Cafe Circa. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday March 29

Cathy Whitlock, author of DESIGNS ON FILM: A CENTURY OF HOLLYWOOD ART DIRECTION, provides a behind-the-scenes look at the masterful set design of GONE WITH THE WIND at the Margaret Mitchell House at 7 PM as part of the GONE WITH THE WIND 75th Anniversary Celebration. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues plays Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch the official grand opening of Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday March 30

It’s TNT, Tommy Lee and Tammy Renee in a knockdown funky drag-out “Keytar Loser Leave Grudge Match” vs. Lust at Star Bar. TNT perform hits from the ’70s to today but are especially known for their fun takes on ’70s and ’80s funkilicious, R&B and disco favorites like Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition.” Cabaret theatrics meet post-punk adult-themed rawk in Lust, featuring another pair of powerhouse vocalists Susanne Gibboney and Blast-Off Burlesque‘s “Barbilicious” Hays.

At The Earl, New Zealand’s Surf City takes inspiration from surf music, Jesus and Mary Chain (originally “Kill Surf City” after that band’s song) and Velvet Underground. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side DoorThe Hollidays and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM. Cover band ’80s Band of Destiny is in the Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar.

Thursday March 31

'64 MV Agusta 500cc is one of 11 vintage and contemporary Italian motorcycles on display at MoDA. Photo courtesy of Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Drink some wine and enjoy a gallery tour of PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE by previous Kool Kat curator Joe Remling during MODA‘s first Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. Murphreesboro, Tenn. alt-country band The Only Sons plays Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’sJoe Gransden jazzes up Tantra now on Thursdays. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chicken Shack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Why Andy Ditzler Loves Avant-Garde Films and Why You Should, Too

Posted on: Mar 22nd, 2011 By:

SMILE JOHN: Includes HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JOHN (1972), Dir: Jonas Mekas; FILM NO. 5 (SMILE) (1968), Dir: Yoko Ono; Fri. March 25, 7 PM; Plaza Theatre; $10 ($8 if attending 9 PM screening, too)

SKY, BED PEACE: Includes BED IN (1969), Dir: Yoko Ono and John Lennon; APOTHEOSIS (1970), Dir: Yoko Ono and John Lennon; Fri. March 25, 9 PM; Plaza Theatre; $10 ($8 if attending 7 PM screening, too)

Yoko Ono and John Lennon Montreal Bed-In, 1969 Photo by Ivor Sharp ©Yoko Ono.

Since he started Film Love, his provocative avant-garde film series, in 2003, Andy Ditzler has explored everything from the beat cinema subculture to American racism. But this Friday March 25 at the Plaza Theatre, audiences will be treated to filmmaking as love-making between two intensively creative people with the first two of five installments of YOKO ONO: reality dreams, which Film Love is co-presenting with Emory University and Atlanta Contemporary Art CenterJohn Lennon and Yoko Ono certainly must be one of the most famous couples of the 20th century, but these experimental films are rarely seen and aren’t available on video.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Andy to ask him about his own passion for avant-garde film, the origins of Film Love, what Frequent Small Meals are, and why you should spend Friday night getting to know John and Yoko better through some extraordinary movies.

From what I understand, you started Film Love in 2003 with a beat cinema series at Eyedrum. How did you become so interested in and passionate about experimental and avant-garde cinema?

In the early ‘90s, I was living in Boulder, where the great avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage was teaching. I attended his screenings and classes. He showed the wildest films, things I had no idea how to process or even understand. Yet Brakhage had a way of talking about the films that made it clear that watching them was to be considered an adventure, that you could figure it  out, and most of all how important it was that we gather to watch these films.

Andy Ditzler, founder & curator of Film Love.

Some of the films were so small, so obscure, that they almost disappeared off the screen. I was hooked. One day Stan showed THE END and THE MAN WHO INVENTED GOLD by Christopher Maclaine. Maclaine was a shadowy figure, long dead, and his films of Beat San Francisco in the ‘50s were completely haunting. I totally connected with them.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, March 21-27, 2011

Posted on: Mar 22nd, 2011 By:

Here’s your weekly guide to where and why to get out…

Monday March 21

After dark, Joe Gransden & his smokin’ 16-piece orchestra present another Big Band Night of jazz at Café 290, featuring Sinatra, Bennett, Basie and Joe’s originals. Northside Tavern hosts a Blues Jam.

Tuesday March 22

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues plays Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack. Atlanta’s notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Get a sneak preview of new Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits; official grand opening is next Tues. March 29.

Wednesday March 23

Not quite as cool as taking a TARDIS back to 688, but coming mighty close, ATLRetro’s top pick of the night is ’70s/’80s garage band extraordinaire The Fleshtones at Star Bar, with The Forty-Fives and Ghost Bikini opening. The Emory University Tango Ensemble and Tango Orchestra Club Atlanta present an evening of traditional and new Argentinian tango dancing and music at Emory’s Schwartz Center. Lots of weekly events, too. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. The Hollidays and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM. Cover band ’80s Band of Destiny is in the Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar.

Thursday March 24

The Found Footage Festival brings outtakes and oddities found at garage sales, flea markets, dumpsters and other strange places to the Plaza Theatre, including a rare screening of cult classic HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT. It’s a bonafide ’70s night at Philips Arena as (ATLRetro) Rod Stewart thrusts whatever he has left and Stevie Nicks wails out “Rhiannon” one more time. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Joe Gransden jazzes up Tantra now on Thursdays. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chicken Shack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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